Back Stage is an entertainment-industry brand aimed at people working in film and the performing arts, with a special focus on casting (performing arts), job opportunities, and career advice.
Back Stage publishes two weekly tabloid-sized trade magazines in the U.S. (Back Stage East and Back Stage West) and a bimonthly digest-sized resource directory (Ross Reports) that cover the entertainment industry from the perspective of performers (singers, dancers, comedians, etc.), the performance unions (SAG, Actors' Equity Association, AFTRA, AGVA, AGMA, the American Federation of Musicians, AFTRA, etc.), casting directors, agents, writers, directors, and, in particular, actors.
Back Stage also publishes related books and newsletters, produces industry trade shows (such as Actorfest), and hosts various panels and screenings, along with running multiple websites (including BackStage.com, RossReports.com, Blog Stage, Back Stage Unscripted, and the weekly Back Stage Digital Editions).
Back Stage may be most well known as a resource for audition information, casting calls/casting notices, training opportunities, and entertainment-industry jobs, news, and interviews. Film and theatre are the main topics reviewed and reported upon, but the television, radio, dance, music, cabaret, voice-over, modeling, and stand-up comedy industries are also included in Back Stage's coverage.
Back Stage (the company) was founded by Allen Zwerdling and Ira Eaker in New York City in December 1960. Zwerdling and Eaker had worked together for years as editor and advertising director, respectively, of the Show Business casting newspaper, which was founded by Leo Shull as Actor's Cues in 1941.
At the time of its founding, Back Stage (the newsmagazine) was primarily a casting paper for New York actors intended to compete with Show Business. It gradually broadened its scope to include coverage of New York's television commercial production industry, which proved to be so lucrative advertising-wise that the commercial production beat came to dominate the publication. Its reach began to slowly spread across the U.S., though the largest readership remained on the East Coast.
Owing to the disparity between its two main areas of coverage -- the legitimate theatre and TV commercial production -- Back Stage eventually incorporated the film and video production into a weekly pull-out section called Back Stage Shoot, a sort of mini-publication with a special focus on the commercials industry.
In 1975 Back Stage opened a Los Angeles bureau and began to more actively extend its editorial coverage across the U.S., with corespondents based in Florida, Chicago, London, and other key entertainment-industry-centric areas added to the Back Stage roster over the years.
In 1986, Back Stage was bought by Billboard Publications Inc. (BPI), owner of such publications as Billboard (magazine). In 1988, BPI bought The Hollywood Reporter. Back Stage and The Hollywood Reporter, along with a few other related brands, were grouped together within BPI, becoming its film and performing arts division.
Interestingly, although The Hollywood Reporter, Billboard, and Back Stage each covers distinct areas of the entertainment industry, they were (and are) all competitors to Variety (magazine) to some degree.
On July 6, 1990, Back Stage Shoot was spun off into into a full, standalone publication, SHOOT. The concept was to have Back Stage concentrate on actors, performing artists, and theatre, while SHOOT would continue to "serve the news and information needs of creative and production decision-makers at ad agencies, and executives & artisans in the production industry" (according to their official press materials found on ShootOnline.com). To emphasize the change, the official Back Stage tagline "The complete service weekly for the communications and entertainment industry" was switched to "The Performing Arts Weekly."
In early 1994, Netherlands-based company VNU bought Back Stage owner BPI. VNU eventually came to own a variety of trade publications -- including Mediaweek and Adweek -- along with measurement company Nielsen Media Research.
Later that same year, Back Stage created a new publication, Back Stage West, a weekly trade paper similar to the New York-based Back Stage but with a special focus on the West Coast acting community and casting opportunities based in California. At the time, despite past efforts, Back Stage was still popular primarily in the Northeast U.S.
Then, in 1997, BackStage.com was founded, which combined content from Back Stage and Back Stage West with selected news articles from The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard and original online-only content intended to reach a larger, international audience.
And in May 1998, Back Stage bought its chief LA competitor, Drama-Logue.
The Drama-Logue company was founded in 1969 as a casting hotline, and in 1972 it became a weekly trade publication entitled The Hollywood Drama-Logue Casting Sheet, commonly known simply as Drama-Logue. Before the end of 1998, Drama-Logue's holdings were fully integrated into BackStage.com and Back Stage West, which for a time became known as Back Stage West/Drama-Logue. However, the Drama-Logue brand name was slowly phased out.
Beginning in the late 1990s, a number of casting (performing arts) information and entertainment job websites began cropping up, offering specialized online tools for actors, performers, and models, including online casting submission systems and video-enhanced resumes. Although the BackStage.com website from this time period published hundreds of casting notices every week, the site was essentially set up only as a news publication, with the majority of the casting content published in bulk once a week along with the editorial content from the various Back Stage print publications. Thus, the site lacked the daily activity and new-media casting tools being developed by cutting-edge sites.
The competition eventually sparked major changes in Back Stage's development, and in October 2005 Back Stage relaunched its print and online publications in order to regain its edge.
During this 2005 relaunch process, all Back Stage publications were redesigned (including Back Stage West); various staffing changes took place; the East Coast/New York edition of Back Stage was renamed Back Stage East; BackStage.com began publishing more articles on a daily basis and introduced more exclusive editorial content, blogs, feeds, and tools; and Casting.BackStage.com was founded, giving BackStage.com users access to advanced casting/job search, sort, and alert tools, along with a searchable talent database featuring resumes, pictures, video reels, and audio reels of thousands of working and aspiring actors and performers.
Around this same time, the primary Back Stage tagline changed from "The Performing Arts Weekly" to "The Actor's Resource." A secondary branding slogan, "Casting You Can Trust - Since 1960" was also added and given prominent placement both on BackStage.com and on the front covers of the weekly East Coast and West Coast newspaper/magazine versions of Back Stage. And sister publication SHOOT (and ShootOnline.com) was sold to another publishing company.
In 2006, a company called Valcon Acquisition B.V., run by a private equity group consortium, bought VNU, making Valcon the new owner of Back Stage and all other VNU holdings. Then, on January 18th 2007, VNU rebranded itself The Nielsen Company, with its trade-publication division being renamed Nielsen Business Media.
And in early 2007, publisher Steve Elish retired from Back Stage after 34 years. However, founder Ira Eaker's daughter, longtime Back Stage editor-in-chief Sherry Eaker, carries on her father's work as the Back Stage editor at large. As of 2008, principals at Back Stage included national casting editor Luke Crowe, vice president/general manager Jeff Black, associate publisher Charlie Weiss, national editor-in-chief Jamie Painter Young, national film and television editor Jenelle Riley, national theatre editor Leonard Jacobs, managing website editor Tom Penketh, and director of manufacturing and operations Lydia Mikulko.
The Back Stage brand is still closely tied to its primary sister publications, The Hollywood Reporter and Billboard, as well as the other Nielsen Business Media publications. However, Back Stage has also carved out its own industry niche by publishing directories (such as Ross Reports, a bimonthly listing of talent agents, casting directors, and film productions), books (actor handbooks and biographies published under the Watson-Guptill imprint Back Stage Books), and print-only industry inserts (such as the quarterly ACTion magazine for actors interested in making their own movies).
Back Stage also hosts and produces the semi-annual Actorfest trade show (this entertainment-industry networking event is held once in NYC and once in LA every year), the annual Back Stage West Garland Awards (an awards show honoring the California theatre scene), and the annual Bistro Awards (honoring the cabaret industry, especially NYC-based cabaret). Additionally, Back Stage sponsors numerous events and panels for talent working in the fields of film, television, commercials, radio/voice-overs, theatre, dance, modeling, and club talent (comedians, singers, etc.).